Gold-medal coach on tap at JLC

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

So much for a post-Olympic break.

Jim Waite returned home to St. Thomas Monday night after coaching Brad Gushue to the men's curling gold medal -- and right away he's put to work as a director of officials at the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

"It's almost surreal when you're over there," he said between draws yesterday at the John Labatt Centre. "You begin to realize what's going on and what's at stake, especially with the fact we'd never done it (win men's gold) before."

Waite said the Gushue rink struggled in the early going with the rocks and the ice, which was so straight at the beginning "it was like bowling."

"There might have been the misconception back home that the guys were bickering, but they were struggling so hard with the rocks and ice," Waite said. "But the team dynamics were solid the whole time."

What turned it around, ironically, was a defeat to Italy. Rather, the last half of it.

"We were down 5-1 at the fifth-end break and we just talked to each other and we all said we'd had games where it was a case of two halves. Then we came back and forced an extra end and even though we lost, the guys still felt good about the way they played. And they just kept building from there."

And the fact Finland, the U.S. and Britain were the other semifinalists showed just how strong the field was, Waite said.

"You look at (2002 gold medallist) Pal Trulsen of Norway, who doesn't make the playoffs. Peter Lindholm of Sweden (the 2004 world champ) loses his last six to go 3-6. For some of the best teams in the world, things just didn't work out."

As for the addition of two-time world champion Russ Howard to the squad, Waite said, was the perfect move.

"He gave the kids confidence. Russ is the guy who helped with the rocks so that we hand-picked a perfect set for the semifinal and final. He gave the boys what they needed in terms of experience.

"There were a lot of naysayers about the (selection) process when you leave the likes of (Randy) Ferbey, (Kevin) Martin and (Jeff) Stoughton behind, but I was so impressed with the way Brad and the guys handled themselves."

Along with the congratulatory phone calls from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Newfoundland-Labrador Premier Danny Williams came a couple of surprises after winning a gold medal -- two members of the Italian secret service and two police cars were with the Canadian team for the rest of the Games.

"That was interesting," said Waite, who had nothing but praise for Shannon Kleibrink and her women's bronze-medal team.

"She really gutted it out. They could have gone into the tank after losing that semifinal, because it's the toughest game in curling. You win and you're guaranteed a silver even if you stink in the final. Lose and you have to play your guts out to win bronze.

"As someone told me, when we go to the worlds, every Canadian curling fan is watching, but when we go to the Olympics, every Canadian is watching."


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